Cooks Finds Success in Cybersecurity Classroom

LUBBOCK – Two years ago, Guadalupe Cooks wasn’t sure what she was going to do. Gripped by fear, she was hesitant to enroll in college, but she knew that earning her college degree was something she needed to do.

“I was terrified of getting my degree,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d be standing here where I am, but I did it. I finished.”

A December 2021 graduate from Wayland Baptist University – Lubbock, Cooks not only earned her business administration degree with a specialization in cybersecurity, but she also thrived in the classroom. Cooks completed Wayland’s cybersecurity program earning several TestOut certifications in the process, including certificates in PC Pro, hardware, software, information security, networking and Cyberdefense Pro.

The TestOut certification exams are part of the curriculum set up by Dr. Joe Marnell who oversees the cybersecurity program at Wayland. Cooks was part of a group that saw 96% of students pass several of the exams that test knowledge and basic understanding of industry standards for specific computer disciplines. Nationally, only 53% of students pass the exams.

Cooks admits that her educational journey wasn’t easy as she had to face adversity with the death of loved ones and other issues that came up the past few years. She said faith played a strong role in helping her through the process.

“I knew that when I came back to school, I was coming to a Christian campus,” Cooks said. “We sat in class, and we prayed. I had a tough few years. We’ve all struggled and to be able to make it through – it’s all God.”

An employee of Lubbock ISD, Cooks is a specialist in technology support for Roscoe Wilson Elementary, Hutchinson Middle School, Maedgen Elementary School and Matthews Academy.

“I provide all of the technical support for those campuses,” Cooks said. “Printers, computers, Chromebooks … We’ve got to keep our kids in a position to be successful, so that is what I do. I wanted to prove I could do that job. A degree and certifications say that I can do that.”

Not only does Cooks have the personal satisfaction of passing the TestOut certification exams, but the organization will also guarantee her skills in the tested areas. TestOut will place badges on Cooks LinkedIn profile certifying her expertise in those areas. Through her success with the certification exams and degree completion, Cooks has proven to herself that she is capable of many things.

“It’s opened my eyes to the ideas of opportunity,” she said. “My mindset has completely changed. I’m constantly thinking about my future and where I’m going to go next and the doors that God is opening for me.”

Cooks is hoping she can make a difference by teaching others. She has applied for alternative certification with the school district, and she’s considering continuing with her education in pursuit of a Master of Science degree in engineering.

“I don’t know that I’ll make it,” she said. “But like I said, prayer and faith has really just been the backbone that has pushed me and gotten me to this point. Maybe one day I’ll be able to come back (to Wayland) and teach college students.”